In late February 2014, unusually high numbers of wild thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia) were found dead on the coast of South Greenland. To investigate the cause of death, 45 birds were submitted for laboratory examination in Denmark. Avian influenza viruses (AIVs) with subtypes H11N2 and low pathogenic H5N1 were detected in some of the birds. Characterization of the viruses by full genome sequencing revealed that all the gene segments belonged to the North American lineage of AIVs. The seemingly sparse and mixed subtype occurrence of low pathogenic AIVs in these birds, in addition to the emaciated appearance of the birds, suggests that the murre die-off was due to malnutrition as a result of sparse food availability or inclement weather. Here we present the first characterization of AIVs isolated in Greenland, and our results support the idea that wild birds in Greenland may be involved in the movement of AIV between North America and Europe.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1s